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Looking Back at the Great Fire of London

the Great Fire of London

The Great Fire of London took place almost 350 years ago in 1666. A member of Parliament; Samuel Pepys saw this enormous blaze and his writings have helped people understand just how much it changed the city. This fire began in Pudding Lane and lasted for 4 days as citizens fought hard to save their families, homes, and animals.

The Great Fire Begins While People are Asleep

This fire began at night on the 2nd of September in the shop owned by Thomas Farynor who was the personal baker for King Charles II. According to a written account by Samuel Pepys, a servant first saw the flames after Midnight and was able to alert everyone. While this servant and the baker’s family escaped, one maid was too overcome with fear and panic to leave. She remained trapped and perished in the fire.

The Great Fire Marches On...Destroying all in its Path

The Great Fire quickly spread as it fed on the tarry timbers and nearby haystacks at the Star Inn. There was also a lot of wind that dark, early morning and this caused the sparks and hot embers to leap from roof to roof.  St Margaret’s Church would next catch fire and the blaze rolled to Thames Street, which had warehouses that contained tallow, hemp, coal and other flammable substances. 

The Town That Was Made of Wood

Luckily, most of the people survived but it was the wooden buildings that could not be saved. Most of the houses and shops in the city were made of wood and pitch. They were also packed tightly against each other in narrow rows and streets. This arrangement was economical, but it meant there was almost no way to keep a fire from spreading rapidly.

Firefighting Efforts Fail

London citizens tried to form firefighting brigades but were able to do little with their buckets of water against such a fierce, natural enemy.

In less than 10 hours, this gigantic fire had moved onto the London Bridge and would have destroyed Southwark, on the other side if not for a gap in the crossing that had been created by a fire 33 years earlier.

An Opportunity Missed

The Lord Mayor did not give the order to destroy homes and buildings ahead of the fire to create a firebreak that might have stopped the fire earlier. He was too worried about how much money it would take to rebuild. The King finally issued a command to use gunpowder to destroy buildings in the path of the fire, but by this time, the fire was uncontrollable.
Stopping the Blaze

It was the Duke of York (the future King James II) who finally issued an order for the Paper House to be destroyed ahead of the fire. This was done in time to save Westminster from being lost to the flames.

What Was Lost to the Flames

430 acres of land, 16 people, 13,000 homes, and 89 churches were gone in just a few days. This amounted to almost 80% of the city. The Queen’s House survived the Great Fire only because it was surrounded by the stone tower walls. If not for the walls, this building would have been destroyed because it is made mostly of wood.  St Paul’s Cathedral was also among the many beloved sites that England lost to these flames.

The Disaster Makes London a Better and Safer City

There were some benefits however, streets were widened, buildings were made to be stronger and more fireproof, and many of the rats carrying the Plague were eliminated. When London was rebuilt, it was done with bricks, mortar, and stones instead of wood so that this kind of fire would not happen again.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London was erected and remains in place today so that no one will ever forget what happened. This London landmark is said to be placed so precisely that if it should ever be tipped over it will point to the exact spot where this great blaze began.

Lessons We Must Remember

Remember that all Fires can be dangerous, and even a tiny one can create a disaster in just a few minutes. This is a good time to remind you to make sure that you and your families know what to do in case of a fire. Always have a fire escape route planned and have a way to account for everyone. Make sure that everyone in your family knows how to get out of the house. Remember to stay calm and leave immediately, nothing is more important than the safety of you and your family.

This is an original news article © The Kids Window

One of many children's articles written just for kids, for keystage 1 and 2, facts and figures, homework help, general interest and just for fun!

Take a look at our pedal toy fire engines inside.

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